A Plea for Reason during This Pandemic

Are you scared? I’m scared. There’s no shame in that. Anyone with any sense right now is scared. And during times of heightened fear, it is natural for us to want to seek out some sort of magic bullet that will save us all from invisible evils such as COVID-19. But I’m asking you to use your head.

In the past few weeks, several friends have forwarded a variety of voice recordings to me. There are many things these voice recordings have in common.

  • The person on the recording never identifies him or herself by name.

  • The person claims to be in the medical field, or claims to have gotten this information from a reliable source in the medical field.

  • The person then goes on to give all sorts of medical advice that has been “proven” to help you avoid getting COVID-19, or perhaps help you recover quickly if you test positive.

Some of the things they have suggested are:

  • Taking large amounts of Vitamin C.

  • Avoiding Ibuprofen, or, specifically (for some unknown reason), Advil.

  • Avoiding cold liquids.

  • Drinking hot liquids, because this washes the virus into your stomach where the acid then takes care of it.

  • Drinking nothing but lemon.

  • Drinking bleach.

I can’t stress this enough:

⇒ ALL OF THESE THEORIES HAVE BEEN DEBUNKED. ⇐

Ask yourself these things:

  • If any of these magical cures actually worked, don’t you think that Dr. Fauci, and the rest of the doctors from the Centers for Disease Control, would be broadcasting it every 5 minutes on TV?

  • Don’t you think that they’d be shouting it from the rooftops?

  • And why would these unidentified, supposed doctors in all these recordings be passing this information on in an unsophisticated way, as if they’re giving you some sort of privileged, insider scoop?

Here are some more myths that need to be busted:

  • The mistaken belief that you can get the virus by eating Chinese food.

  • The insanity that opening a package from China is more dangerous than opening any other package at this time.

  • The outrageous belief that all Asians are somehow to blame for this and deserve to be punished.

  • The dream that this will all be over by Easter.

  • The erroneous idea that most masks will protect you from the virus, when in fact they’re much more effective in preventing you from spreading the virus to others.

  • The conspiracy theory that this virus was intentionally created in a lab.

  • The fantasy that this virus is no worse than the common flu.

I am begging you, pleading with you:

  • Do not pass on unsubstantiated information.

  • Do your research.

  • Don’t simply share things about this pandemic because it sounds plausible and makes you feel better. It’s only causing more confusion.

Next thing you know, they’ll be telling you to sacrifice chickens, while naked, during the light of the full moon. While this might prove to be an amusing break from the monotony, the chickens sure wouldn’t appreciate it. Not even a little bit.

I know it would be nice to have a get out of jail free card during these trying times, but I urge you to listen to the easily identified infectious disease experts, not other people (who shall remain nameless) with an agenda.

  • Wash your hands.

  • Remain socially distant.

  • Stay at home whenever possible.

We can get through this. The vast, vast majority of us will. That’s a fact.

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PLEASE DON’T DO THIS FOR ANY REASON!!!!

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#MakeaJoyfulNoise

It was 7:15 pm last night and I was sitting alone on my drawbridge, contemplating this strange new world in which we live. One in which we are isolated, even in a crowded city like Seattle. I was feeling lonely and sad.

Then my husband sent me a link to an article entitled, Seattleites encouraged to make ‘joyful noise’ tonight in appreciation of front line workers in coronavirus pandemic.

It was asking people to make some noise at 8pm that very night. Play an instrument. Sing. Bang some pots. Anything to support those frontline workers. What a delightful concept.

So, being on my drawbridge, I decided to set my alarm and blow my horn for 15 seconds at 8pm. It was exciting, somehow, to express myself in the face of this pandemic. I blew my horn for Paula and Steve and John, all friends who work in health care. It was glorious.

But then it was kind of a letdown, because I didn’t hear anyone else making a noise. But wait. I turned off my heater and opened the window. And there it was. Pots and pans! Cowbells! People were coming together!

Crazy how a president can divide us but a pandemic virus can unite us once again.

I hope this becomes a nightly thing, because this is the best I’ve felt in weeks! I hope all the bridges will blow their horns at 8 pm. I hope all the buses will toot. I hope people will shout from their balconies.

We’re still here! We’re still here! We’re still here!

we are here

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An Environmental Reset

I just read an article that says that now that there are no tourists in Venice, the canals are so clear that you can see the fish in them, and that dolphins have been spotted for the first time in recent memory. How wonderful. I wish I could see that, but unfortunately, our trip to Italy has been cancelled.

And then this article on the NPR website shows that the air pollution in China has all but disappeared, because people aren’t driving, and factories aren’t running. China’s carbon footprint isn’t nearly as footy or printy as it was this time last year. Again, good news.

As someone said on a meme that is going around, it’s almost as if the planet has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we’ve done.

We are experiencing a rare opportunity to see a cleaner, less crowded world. I hope that really sinks in with people. I hope it makes us all tread more lightly upon the earth. I hope that we learn more from the horrible tragedy of COVID-19 than the need to wash our hands.

Dolphins venice

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Mid-Month Marvels: Fostering Hope

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

I just love it when people think outside the box, and their workplace is supportive of that thought process. According to this article, back in 2018, Teresa Johnston had one such thought. As the Director of Sales in Home2 Suites outside of Biloxi, Mississippi, she noticed that many of the guests seemed lonely. This is an extended stay hotel, and having stayed in one myself for several months, I can attest to the fact that the loneliness in those places is palpable. The very corridors seem to be whispering, “I want to go home.”

So, Ms. Johnston began thinking of ways to make the guests feel more at home. What were they missing? One thing, she realized, was their pets. So she coordinated with the Humane Society of South Mississippi to have the hotel foster one dog at a time. The guests could play with the dog, walk it, or even have it spend the night in their room.

If a guest or employee fell in love with one of these dogs (and who wouldn’t?) they could adopt the pet right at the hotel with a 50 dollar adoption fee. Because of such encounters, the hotel’s “Fostering Hope” program has adopted out 60 dogs to date. This just proves my theory that home is where the dog is.

I’ve never been to Biloxi, but now I’m tempted.

clancy

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Third Annual Spread Goodness Day

About 5 months ago, I wrote about an amazing woman named Anna Dravland and her desire to change the world despite some serious medical setbacks she encountered along the way. Out of that desire, Spread Goodness Day was born. The third annual Spread Goodness Day just happens to be today, March 13, 2020.

On this day (and every other day, really), you are encouraged to do one act of goodness. It can be big or small, public or private. Just put some positivity into the world in what ever way feels natural to you.

Hold open a door. Pay for someone’s coffee. Let a car in ahead of yours during rush hour. Volunteer. Check in on an elderly neighbor. Remind someone that they’re awesome.

What do I plan to do on this day? Well, for starters, I wrote this blog to spread the word. As of this writing (I write most posts about 10 days in advance) I have no specific plans. I firmly believe, though, that an opportunity will present itself. I think that most genuine acts of kindness happen organically. Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to doing it.

If you feel like spreading the love even further, once you’ve done your kindness, head on over to spreadgoodnessday.com and tell everyone what you did. You can remain anonymous if you wish. But you might inspire someone else, and therefore double your impact!

However you choose to spend Spread Goodness Day, I’m sending you love, dear reader!

virtual hug

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Prison Labor: Modern Day Slavery

From 1998 to 2001 I worked at the St. Augustine Maintenance Yard for the Florida Department of Transportation. I truly hated that job. There is something off about that place, like it was cursed. The morale there was abysmal, and many of the people were just this side of criminally insane. It felt dangerous, in an inmates-running-the-asylum kind of way. It’s what turned me into a bridgetender. I needed peace, after that horror. So I suppose something good came out of it after all.

One of the things that made me squirm the most in that place is that we had a contract with the Department of Corrections. We paid them. They provided us with slaves in the form of prisoners who not only had no choice, but also were not paid for their labors. They dug ditches in the hot Florida sun. They cleared underbrush, using machetes, in amongst the snakes and scorpions and spiders. They picked up trash on the side of busy highways. They did all the grit labor that our other crews didn’t do. Prison Crews are chain gangs without the chains, and field hands without the field.

Were they treated well? In front of us, yes. But some of the guards were thinly veiled Neandertals, and I have no doubt a lot happened out there in the boonies that we were not made privy to. They used to tell us that the prisoners enjoyed this work, but I don’t see how that’s possible. Yes, they got out in the fresh air, but they were sweat-soaked, underfed, and not doing anything that would give them work experience that they could employ upon release. And after all that unpaid labor, they often still had to pay restitution. After digging ditches for about 4 hours, they were treated to a baloney sandwich, and then were expected to work another 4 hours. If some emergency came up and they had to stay late, the prison didn’t hold dinner for them. They simply went without.

One of my coworkers used to long for the good old days. Back then, when a prisoner got “uppity” and refused to work, they’d be locked in a small metal box in the oppressive heat, and the guards would beat on the box with sticks. “That would straighten them right up.” Now, they only get written up and thrown into solitary confinement. Happy to work, my butt.

I have no doubt that that coworker voted for Trump. He wanted to make America great again. He used to make my flesh crawl. And he was free to go home at night, after standing around not doing a thing all day.

According to this article, entitled “Work Forced”, Florida is but one of several southern states that use unpaid prison labor. In these states, the vast majority of prisoners are African American. Without these P Crews, many rural communities would not be able to function, as they’d actually have to pay people a living wage, and they’d be hard-pressed to find people willing to do this scut work.

Is it any wonder that more and more people are locked up for petty crimes? What a boon to the economy when you can snatch someone off the streets for carrying a small bag of weed, and you can work him for years. Slavery still exists, folks.

And it’s not just those Southern states that are culpable. Other states employ prison labor as well. They just pay them. After prison fees and expenses and fines, some of them are lucky to get 90 cents an hour, which isn’t even enough for them to buy a bar of soap in the prison commissary. In many states, if prisoners have a hundred dollars or more in their prison account upon release, the prison doesn’t give them any further money. Just a bus ticket. Thanks for all your hard work.

Lest I entertain the fantasy that this stuff was a thing of the past, I saw P Crews on a daily basis maintaining the grounds of Indian River State College when I was a student there in 2011-2012. These “hardened criminals” were allowed to move around campus, unsupervised, amongst the co-eds.

And that same article really gave me a shiver when it directly discussed some abuses that were happening out of the same prison that we had our contract with when I worked for FDOT, and in the same area where our maintenance yard worked, so it had to be some of the very crews I used to work around. It said:

The Times-Union reviewed all 105 disciplinary reports issued for “refusing to work” from July 2018 and identified at least nine that were written for work squad members. Two of those were written by the same officer, Steven Holmes, who policed a Department of Transportation work squad based out of Putnam Correctional Institution.

In his response to an infraction, Derrick Harmon insisted that he wasn’t refusing to work, but that he simply felt unsafe on Holmes’ work squad. For a week, he said, he had been suspecting Holmes and another officer were plotting to set him up with a disciplinary report for refusing to work.

The disciplinary hearing team, made up of other officers, found Harmon guilty based on Holmes’ statement, which quoted Harmon saying, “I ain’t getting in no ditches today.”

“When Officer Holmes asked Inmate Harmon if he was refusing to work, he said yes,” the disciplinary report said.

Harmon spent two weeks in administrative confinement before he was reassigned to a different squad.

Two weeks later, another prisoner on Holmes’ squad, Henry Summerlin, complained of personal difficulties and other safety concerns. Summerlin, who told officials he was distraught after recently finding out his wife had died, complained of being forced to work in the middle of a “very busy intersection at St. Augustine Beach.” A couple of days later, Summerlin said, Holmes denied his request for a new pair of safety glasses and gloves.

“He stated that he already told us that we needed to start keeping up with our equipment better and that he could not keep getting us new ones every day,” Summerlin wrote in his statement.

“You know that I have been taking it real easy on your ass,” Holmes warned the men, according to Summerlin’s statement on the disciplinary report.

After spending a week in administrative confinement, Summerlin lost 10 days of “gain time,” or time earned off his sentence. He was then reassigned to food service.

I can’t believe this is happening in the 21st century.

As a matter of fact, the documentary that I recently blogged about, 13th, mentions that prisons nationwide have also forced their inmates to work in sweat shops for some very well known companies. Microsoft. Boeing. Victoria’s Secret. JC Penney. Seattle Fish.

Do you eat Idaho Potatoes? Odds are very good that your potato was planted, harvested and packaged by inmates. In fact, more and more farmers are using prison labor because now that we have such an anti-immigration stance, they’re finding it impossible to employ anyone else for that back-breaking work. So, like it or not, we’ve all eaten off the backs of an involuntary farmhand at some point or another.

It kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? Government sanctioned slavery. Here and now.

I know I’ll never look at an Idaho potato the same way again.

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Nowadays the uniforms are a solid light blue, and the shackles are gone, but the work hasn’t changed a bit.

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This Sharing Thing Is Catching On

In this blog I’ve written on numerous occasions about my little free library. The free exchange of books builds community and increases literacy. There’s no downside to the concept that I can see.

I’ve also written about chat benches and little free galleries and little free gardens and bug houses and even stick libraries for dogs. I’ve also heard about little free pantries where you can leave food for people, but have mixed emotions about those, for health and safety reasons. And then just today, I came across this amazing tweet about a little free fiber library with knitting books and balls of yarn inside. Awesome!

I love that the idea of sharing with one another has taken off and seems to show no signs of losing its momentum. It renews my faith in humanity. We are all in this together.

I suspect this trend has a lot to do with the fact that we’re starting to realize that we can’t count on help from those in positions of power. The one percent doesn’t care about us. We therefore must step up and care about each other.

Even the smallest gesture, like the gift of a ball of yarn, can make a difference. It’s a step away from selfishness. It’s a way to reach out.

We are taught the importance of sharing in kindergarten. But it never hurts to be reminded. And good things come from it.

Fiber Library

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